Portland to develop Biketown fleet as ridership hits report

Portland mentioned Friday that it plans to develop its bike rental program, including about 500 new e-bikes to the fleet.

About 200 new bikes can be out there instantly, metropolis officers mentioned, and the remainder can be added over the summer time, bringing Biketown’s fleet to about 2,000.

Additionally Friday, Nike — this system’s main sponsor — will unveil a brand new Biketown station made with rubber from recycled footwear scraps. And on Saturday, Biketown will supply limitless free rides, as much as one hour, in honor of Earth Day. They may even add 30 “Earth Day bikes” to the fleet, depicting native landmarks.

It’s the newest growth of the Biketown program overseen by the town of Portland, bankrolled by Nike and managed by Lyft, additionally recognized for its ride-hailing service. Town expanded Biketown’s geographic vary final January by about 25%, including bike entry to a number of neighborhoods in east and North Portland.

Commissioner Mingus Mapps, who oversees the town’s transportation bureau, mentioned the growth of the bike-sharing service will assist the town bounce again from the pandemic.

“Our public-private partnership with Biketown, and the growth final yr into North Portland and east Portland will assist among the hardest-hit areas of our neighborhood post-pandemic,” he mentioned.

Because the program launched in 2016, it has allowed registered customers to hire a motorcycle at a per-minute charge — at the moment 30 cents, plus a $1 per trip price — and depart the bike at their vacation spot for one more rider. Town switched to a fleet of electric-assist bikes in 2020, when Lyft took over operations.

The newest infusion of latest bikes will sustain with this system’s rising use, mentioned Steve Hoyt-McBeth, the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s interim division supervisor for lively transportation and security.

Biketown use climbed between its first two full years of service in 2017 and 2018, then dipped barely in 2019 and plummeted in 2020, the primary yr of the pandemic. It rapidly recovered in 2021, although, and broke its ridership report in 2022 with about 565,000 journeys.

“Essentially the most highly effective indicator of demand is journeys,” Hoyt-McBeth mentioned. “When extra individuals are driving, we really feel we’ve got a profitable system.”

In 2022, Biketown customers rode near 1.1 million miles.

At the same time as this system has expanded throughout the town, the highest focus of Biketown journeys continues to be in its downtown core.

However some extra distant neighborhoods, akin to round Northeast Portland’s McDaniel Excessive College, have seen extra exercise, which Hoyt-McBeth mentioned is probably going a results of the town’s partnership with native excessive colleges and Multnomah County well being facilities to advertise the bike program.

Town additionally greater than doubled enrollment in its low-income membership program, Biketown for All, between 2021 and 2022. This system provides discounted rides to individuals who qualify for sure state or federal help packages, in addition to school college students on monetary assist. In 2021, Portland State College additionally started providing $20 value of Biketown credit monthly to all college students.

However whereas extra individuals are utilizing this system, annual memberships appeared to drop in recognition, from greater than 4,000 in 2019 to simply over 1,200 in 2022. The annual membership program prices $99 per yr, in trade for decreased per-minute charges.

Hoyt-McBeth mentioned membership has dropped partially because of the pandemic and a change in the way in which individuals use bike share companies.

Early Biketown customers tended to be “die-hard” cyclists who would frequently use the service, he mentioned. Now, he mentioned, extra individuals use it for particular person rides like they’d a bus, Uber or Lyft, however not shopping for a membership.

Biketown used to supply its members 90 minutes of free trip time monthly, however the metropolis removed that perk in 2020. And in February, Biketown charges elevated from 10 cents a minute to fifteen for annual members, and from 20 cents a minute to 30 for non-members.

Kanika Agrawal, Lyft’s common supervisor for Biketown, mentioned the corporate isn’t involved about decrease membership.

“I don’t see it as a threat. General ridership has been rising year-over-year in a extremely robust approach, which reinforces how a lot constructive momentum we’ve constructed,” she mentioned.

Nike’s monetary backing of this system has additionally helped, he mentioned, with the footwear big paying $2.5 million a yr over a 9-year settlement that ends in 2025. (Nike beforehand renewed its sponsorship in 2020.)

General, Hoyt-McBeth mentioned, the town is proud of the route Biketown is headed.

“We as the town need individuals to trip bikes, stroll, take transit,” he mentioned. “Extra journeys is what we’re on the lookout for. We haven’t returned to pre-pandemic ranges, we’ve exceeded them.”

— Jayati Ramakrishnan; jramakrishnan@oregonian.com

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